Washington DC: NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has found neon in the lunar atmosphere.
The moon's thin atmosphere contains neon, a gas commonly used in electric signs on Earth because of its intense glow. While scientists have speculated on the presence of neon in the lunar atmosphere for decades, LADEE spacecraft has confirmed its existence for the first time.
The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made, said lead author Mehdi Benna.
Benna added that they were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant.
There's not enough neon to make the moon visibly glow because the moon's atmosphere is extremely tenuous, about 100 trillion times less dense than Earth's atmosphere at sea level. A dense atmosphere like Earth's is relatively rare in our solar system because an object has to be sufficiently massive to have enough gravity to hold onto it.
The study appears in Geophysical Research Letters.